Flights delayed at Atlanta airport after power outage

Dec 17 (Reuters) - Hundreds of flights were delayed or canceled at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Sunday as a power outage left passengers at the world's busiest airport stranded in darkened terminals or in aircraft idling on tarmacs.

The partial shutdown at the start of one of the busiest travel weeks of the year forced the Federal Aviation Administration to hold back flights bound for Atlanta. Departures were delayed as well because equipment inside terminals was inoperative, the agency said. The FAA flight control tower was operating normally.

The cause of the outage, which occurred just after 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT), was not immediately known, the airport said in a statement. It was working with crews from Georgia Power to identify the problem and fix it.

In response, United Air Lines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines suspended operations to and from Hartsfield for the rest of the day.

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"We know that today has been challenging to all of our customers traveling in and out of Atlanta, and we regret your disappointment," Southwest said in a statement.

Photos and videos posted on social media showed passengers sitting in partial darkness in crowded terminals.

"Stuck on a plane at Atlanta Airport as the power is out there ... bedlam inside and boredom out here!" Twitter user Jack Harris wrote.

Delta Air Lines said on Twitter it was working to allow customers to deplane as quickly as possible, with only a limited number of open gates available.

In response to a question from a customer, the Atlanta-based carrier said it expected service to be restored by Sunday night, although it cautioned that the airport had yet not identified the cause.

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6 worst airports in the US

#6: Los Angeles International Airport

On a 1,000-point scale, travelers scored LAX a 702.

The airport is know for its long waits to get through security, immigration, and customs, according to the LA Times. Some travelers have also complained of poor signage, limited seating, unclean restrooms, and crowded terminals.

There are renovations planned for the airport, including a $1.6-billion midfield terminal that will add 12 gates for aircrafts. In February 2016, a revamped Terminal 2 also opened, which now features a mix of 20 new local and chain restaurants, more open space, and luxury retail.

Photo credit: Reuters

#5: Boston Logan Airport

On a 1,000-point scale, travelers scored Boston Logan Airport a 689.

The airport deals with extreme congestion: there were more than 5.5 million arrivals and departures in 2015, the Boston Globe reported. In the past, TSA lines have also stretched up to three hours. And the Globe notes that it's still not uncommon to have over five flights land within the same hour.

In 2016, the Massachusetts Transportation Authority approved a $45 million redevelopment plan, which includes expanding some terminals, for the airport.

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#4: Chicago O'Hare Airport

On a 1,000-point scale, travelers scored O'Hare a 689.

Due largely to weather, O'Hare can be a nightmare for flight delays — a major reason for its low score in the study. Thunderstorms and snow storms were relatively mild for O’Hare in 2016, which reduced flight delays compared to previous years, according to the researchers.

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#3: Philadelphia International Airport

On a 1,000-point scale, travelers scored Philadelphia International Airport a 688.

Philly's international airport's infrastructure continues to age, while the number of passengers that use it continues to grow. During 2016's spring break, nearly 6,800 passengers missed flights because of TSA checkpoint delays at Philadelphia International Airport, according to the local NBC station. The airport hired about 200 new workers each week last summer to try to make up for the gap.

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#2: Newark Liberty International Airport

On a 1,000-point scale, travelers scored Newark Airport a 669.

In 2016, the airport handled over 430,000 arrivals and departures, though many of them did not come or leave on-time. According to a report by the Department of Transportation, only 74% of flights avoided delays in 2016.

That year, United Airlines spent $120 million to redesign Newark's Terminal C, but the airport still needs many improvements.

Photo credit: Reuters

#1: New York LaGuardia Airport

On a 1,000-point scale, travelers scored Newark Airport a 649.

LaGuardia may be ugly, horribly congested, and not so efficient. (In 2016, 29% of LaGuardia flights had delays.)

But it's about to get a huge upgrade. In March 2016, the Port Authority of New York approved a $4 billion redevelopment plan for the aging airport. The first part of the new airport is expected to open in 2019, with the rest scheduled to debut 18 months after that.

Photo credit: Getty

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A representative of the airline, which operates a hub at Hartsfield, could not be reached immediately for an update on the status of its operations.

By 5:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT), 338 flights out of Hartsfield, or 32 percent, were canceled, and 238 were delayed, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking service. For flights bound for the airport, 333, or 28 percent, were canceled and 284, or 23 percent, were delayed.

International flights to Hartsfield were diverted to other Atlanta-area airports, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said on Twitter.

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